(Image source: PHIS homepage.)
For many years, the pet insurance market in Australia has been tightly controlled by a handful of established providers. However, Auto & General, a Brisbane, Queensland-based insurer that had already successfully disrupted the market with motor and home insurance products, saw “a prime opportunity for disruption with a quality, value-for-money and easy-to-understand product,” according to George Meligonis, an executive at A&G.
Since A&G’s IT systems did not support the pet insurance line of business, it would need a new core system partner to realize that opportunity. The company also decided that it made sense to create a new, independent entity. This resulted in the launch of Pet Health Insurance Services (PHIS), of which Meligonis is now CEO. “Pet Health Insurance Services was established in 2020 as a specialist Pet Insurance Underwriting Agency,” Meligonis relates. “Our vision is to provide innovative pet insurance solutions to Australian companies and their customers.”
Beyond simply acquiring a system capable of supporting pet insurance, A&G sought a solution that could provide customers with a tailored experience when purchasing or managing a pet policy—and which could also administer a quick and easy claims journey. The company considered existing pet insurance-specific solutions and also considered the internal build option. After an extensive review of these options, in late 2019 A&G selected Aquarium Software (Altrincham, U.K.), a specialist in pet insurance systems.
“We became aware of Aquarium’s capabilities, and upon reviewing the functionality of their core platform, we decided that their offering would best position us in our goal to offer market-leading pet insurance products and services,” Meligonis says.
Aquarium Software’s Product Marketing Director Mark Colonnese says that a visit to A&G provided an opportunity to articulate some of the nuances prevalent in the pet insurance niche—and how its offering answered those requirements. “It kind of made sense to them that they’d be crazy to try to bend a legacy system to try to service pets, so we won the business,” relates Colonnese. “Our proposition has always been pet-insurance-in-a-box. ‘We can do the rating, billing, claims—and it’s all hosted by us: your IT people don’t have to get involved.’”
On-time, On-budget Delivery—Remotely
A&G received initial demos of Aquarium’s platform in Oct. 2019, and by Feb. 2020 a letter of intent was signed to commit to implementation. Between the commitment and the planned work, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. “Covid provided us with some unique challenges during the implementation phase of the deployment,” Meligonis concedes. “Normally we would have expected a significant amount of face-to-face time. However, with Aquarium’s support we changed our approach and managed to work successfully with the Aquarium team across continents to deliver the project on time and within budget.”
PHIS opened for business in December 2020, and since then has grown from strength to strength, leaving Meligonis and his colleagues optimistic about the impact the new company will make on the pet insurance market in Australia. “The Australian pet insurance market has historically not created the optimum climate for competition,” Meligonis notes. “Pet Health Insurance Services and the Aquarium operating platform should provide a great alternative proposition to service Australians seeking to save money on value for money pet insurance products.”
Meligonis describes PHIS as being extremely satisfied with the functionality that the Aquarium software provides its business. “It has been developed specifically for pet insurance and this places it ahead of many other systems available in the market,” he says. “The integrated Aquarium policy management and claims processing systems allows us to deliver a market leading customer experience both online and in our customer contact centers.”
Setting a New Standard for Pet Insurance
A&G’s Budget Direct brand is PHIS’s first carrier customer, but the company’s independence from A&G puts it in a position to secure partnerships with insurers either within or completely unrelated to A&G. “Our in-house capabilities—people, process and systems—have been developed to take a market-leading pet insurance system and service to any insurance or non-insurance brand in Australia looking to distribute pet insurance to their customer base,” Meligonis explains. “We will be looking to further develop our capabilities and to grow our market presence and partner base as we strive to set a new standard for pet insurance in Australia.”